The Zaandam and the Rotterdam finally docked at Port Everglades on the afternoon of April 2. There were four dead bodies on the Zaandam and passengers were complaining of COVID-19 like symptoms. Governor Ron DeSantis and members of the Broward County Commission had opposed allowing the ships to dock at the Port saying allowing passengers to disembark would overwhelm the local health system.
A plan was developed, and the ships were allowed to dock. A statement issued by Ellen Kennedy, spokesperson for Port Everglades said, “The Port Everglades Unified Command, comprised of federal, state and local partners, worked with Carnival Corporation, parent company of Holland America Line, to develop a comprehensive plan for the safe disembarkation of nearly 1,200 passengers from two cruise ships. Exceeding safety procedures laid out by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the Florida Department of Health, healthy passengers will return to their homes on Friday and Saturday on chartered flights to domestic and international destinations.”
People on the ships are being screened and cleared for entry by U.S Customs and Border Protection. Disembarkation is in progress and priority is given to those who need immediate care at local health system partners who have approved their arrival. Fit-to-travel people will transfer straight from ship onto buses for transfer directly to the airport for their flights home. Most will leave on charter flights. Passengers from southern Florida will return home in private cars. Passengers have not left the ship since March 14 and have self-isolated in their staterooms since March 22, according to a statement from Holland America.
Passengers who still have symptoms will remain on board and disembark at a later date to be determined after they have fully recovered and CDC guidelines for being fit to travel. They will be care for by the ships’ medical staffs. No crew from either ship will disembark in Fort Lauderdale.
Since, March 22, 107 guests, 90 on Zaandam and 17 on Rotterdam and 143 crew on Zaandam and 0 on Rotterdam have reported influenza-like symptoms. There were 808 guests and 583 crew on Rotterdam. On Zaandam, there were 442 guests and 603 crew. Among the guests, 311 are U.S. citizens and 52 are residents of Florida, according to a statement from Holland America.
“These travelers could have been any one of us or our families, unexpectedly caught in the middle of this unprecedented closure of global borders that happened in a matter of days and without warning,” said Orlando Ashford, president of the Holland America Line. “We are so happy to be able to get our guests home and assist those few who need additional medical services. The COVID-19 situation is one of the most urgent tests of our shared humanity, and we must do everything we can to ensure we continue to act in ways consistent with our common human dignity.”
“Residents have been understandably concerned about potential impacts in our community,” said Broward County Mayor Dale V.C. Holness. “This is a humanitarian situation, and the County Commission’s top priority is protecting our 1.9 million residents while providing a contained disembarkation option for people on board who need to get safely home.”